Sunday, May 18, 2014

Schonwerth's Fairy Tales

You may remember the buzz a couple years ago when 500 German fairy tales were discovered-Heidi covered it at Surlalune and Gypsy covered it on Once Upon a Blog in 2012 when it was in the news (among other bloggers).

Then when Heidi alerted us that the book is now available, I immediately put it on my Amazon wish list! The birthday fairies were very kind and struck again and I now have my very own copy:
To summarize, Schonwerth, inspired by the Grimms, collected many tales from his native region of  the Upper Palatinate. Only, he actually did what the Grimms only claimed to do: went among the common folk and preserved the tales just as he was told. And though we may frown upon the Grimms for taking the easy way out-having their educated, of-French-ancestry, middle class friends tell them the majority of their tales, it wasn't an easy task for Schonwerth. He sent out many surveys, many of which were never returned. He made multiple trips to that area of the country, having to first earn the trust of the working class there, who were afraid that they were being made fun of.
The Upper Palatinate, in red, a region of Bavaria-native home to Schonwerth and his wife, from where all of his tales were collected

Also interesting to note, Schonwerth worked for King Maximilian II of Bavaria, becoming one of his most trusted confidants. His son became King Ludwig II, who created the famed Neuschwanstein Castle, often called the Fairy Tale King. M. Charlotte Wolf, translator/editor of this book, points out that Ludwig may have been inspired in his love of folklore by his father's friend.

Schonwerth's collection includes varations of some of our familiar fairy tales, but I haven't come across those yet. In fact, overall the stories I've been reading (they are divided into sections according to themes) sound much less like stereotypical fairy tales and more like tales of fairies and spirits, or ghost stories. Much more similar in tone to Thomas Keightly's Fairy Mythology than to most of the Grimm tales (although several of the stories in their collection wouldn't fit into a Proppian analysis either, their collection contains religious tales and other genres as well). The book includes all aspects of folklore, myths and legends as well as fairy tales. Many of the stories were ways of passing down knowledge of superstitions held by the people (such as, clothing made by a pregnant woman are more likely to be struck by lightning, how to handle changelings, etc.). So in a way they are more warnings than stories for entertainment-and the book contains many helpful footnotes to explain certain customs and beliefs that the stories illustrate. And contrary to the stereotype that all fairy tales end happily, so far the vast majority do NOT end happily. Many characters suffer consequences of failing to heed advice, or simply suffer from some of life's unfortunate circumstances.

I'll be sharing more as I read in the upcoming weeks!


  1. A storytelling associate of mine actually had a friend who taught in Germany translate a couple of the tales for her and she posted them on her own blog. You can find one here:
    and one here:

    Just in case they're not in your book.

    1. Ooh! Thanks! After a brief skimming of the table of contents I don't see these tales. Would it be okay to put these links in my next post on this book?

    2. I think so. I didn't exactly ask permission myself, but since she put them in her own blog I doubt she has a problem showing these to the public.

  2. Hello! I am goldsmith from Upper Palatinate. Severeal years ago I made the jewel pendant "Hoydl" - one of the fairy tales from schonwerth. Here I worked together with Mrs. Eichenseer, the finder of the tales. Do you think there is a market to sell it international? Wishes, Sebastian

    1. Hi Sebastian! I really know nothing about the business and marketing side of fairy tale products, but if you have a website or a link to the product, I would love to share it here on the blog, and I could also pass it along to other fairy tale bloggers for them to share with their readers. That would be a good way to spread awareness around an audience that loves fairy tales!